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Bringing Home The Bass: 2.1-Channel Speaker Roundup

Bringing Home The Bass: 2.1-Channel Speaker Roundup
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Is it just us, or are 5.1- and 7.1-channel speaker systems impractical for PCs? In our 2.1 speaker roundup, we look at the Corsair SP2500 and Antec/Soundscience Rockus 3D|2.1, along with the Creative Gigaworks 3D, Klipsch Promedia 2.1, and Logitech Z623.

If you’re a PC user who hasn’t experienced what a subwoofer can do, you owe it to yourself to try one out. Strong bass brings incredible power to game sounds, and extends the range of music much lower than a two-speaker setup can achieve. If you want to feel those explosions and rhythms, a subwoofer isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

Creative, Logitech, and Klipsch are well-known names when it comes to 2.1-channel PC audio systems, but Corsair and Antec (under a new audio/video division named Soundscience) have dipped their toes into the market with some new products that we have the pleasure of reviewing today.

We put the following PC speaker systems through the paces—some are new, while others have been around for quite a while—but all represent the premium 2.1-channel offerings from their respective brands:


Corsair
SP2500
Creative
Gigaworks T3
Klipsch
Promedia 2.1
Logitech
Z623
Soundscience
Rockus 3D|2.1
Power:
232 W
by FTC guidelines
80 W
nominal RMS
200 W
peak
200 W
RMS
150 W
maximum
Satellites:
(two)
1" 10 W tweeter
3" 40 W driver
2" 15 W driver
0.75" tweeter
3" woofer
2.5" 35 W driver
2.5" 25 W driver
Subwoofer:8" 120 W driver
three 6.5" drivers
50 W total
6.5" 130 W driver
7" 130 W driver
6" 100 W driver
Inputs:
1/8" jack (remote)
1/8" jack (sub)
RCA jacks (sub)
1/8" jack (remote)
RCA jacks (sub)
1/8" cable (satellite)
1/8" jack (satellite)
1/8" cable (satellite)
1/8" jack (satellite)
1/8" jack (sub)
RCA jacks (sub)
1/8" jack (sub)
RCA jacks (sub)
optical (sub)
Outputs:1/8" headphone (remote)
1/8" headphone (remote)1/8" headphone (satellite)1/8" headphone (satellite)N/A
Controls:Volume, subwoofer,
EQ presets, effects
Volume, subwoofer
Volume, bass
Volume, bass
Volume, input, 3D
Dimensions:
6.3" x 4.3" x 4.7" satellite (2)
11.7" x 18.1" x 10.2" subwoofer
5.9" x 3.0" x 3.7" satellite (2)
8.4" x 9.3" x 11.3" subwoofer
8.5" x 4.2" x 5.67" satellite (2)
9.5" x 9.8" x 10.2" subwoofer
7.75" x 4.5" x 4.75" satellite (2)
12" x 11" x 10" subwoofer
5.7" x 4.7" x 6.3" satellite (2)
13.8" x 7.7" x 10.2" subwoofer
Weight:
2 lbs. satellite (2)
19.2 lbs. subwoofer
0.8 lbs. satellite (2)
13 lbs. subwoofer
2.1 lbs. satellite (2)
11 lbs. subwoofer
1.6 lbs. satellite (2)
13 lbs. subwoofer
1.4 lbs. satellite (2)
13 lbs. subwoofer
Accessories:
1/8" mini-to-RCA splitter cable,
two satellite tilt stands,
wired remote with color LCD display
1/8" mini-to-RCA splitter cable,
wired remote
1/8" input cable
(attached to satellite)
1/8" input cable
(attached to satellite)
1/8" mini-to-RCA splitter cable,
1/8" input cable,
wired remote
Price:
$249.00
(MSRP)
$249.99 (us.store.creative.com)
$154.99 (bestbuy.com)
$146.99 (newegg.com)
$249.99 (newegg.com)
Warranty:
two years
one year
one yeartwo yearstwo years
Display 97 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    damasvara , January 6, 2011 6:34 AM
    Audiophiles dissing common audio listeners = Hardcore PC gamers dissing console gamers

    Typical... :pfff: 
  • 11 Hide
    cleeve , January 6, 2011 6:03 AM
    clownbabyWow, those freq response graphs are pretty telling that computer speakers are basically all trash.


    If you know audio, you know that the environment has a *MASSIVE* effect on response recording. Even moving the mic a few inches in the same environment can change the result by a large amount.

    As we've stressed in the article, we don't have the luxury of a professional-grade anechoic chamber for testing. Our results are likely heavily degraded by comb filtering and phase cancellation, but they can be used to compare speaker output to each other because they were all tested in the same conditions.

    The bottom line is, don't write these products off based on a response taken in less than ideal conditions.

    Use these response graphs for what they are good for--not absolute, but relative measurements.
  • 10 Hide
    miaaron , January 6, 2011 3:03 PM
    A few comments:
    1) The Creative Gigaworks T3 does have 3 drivers in the sub enclsoure, but two of the drivers are not active/powered. They are more commonly referred to as passive radiators and they just tune an enclosure like a port would. If you want more info on how ports work, search for "helmholtz resonator".

    2) Don't knock the speakers for the freq response measurements, or any other speakers measured freq response when someone measures them in a regular room. What those freq measurements are showing is the freq response of the speakers in their room...not your room. That's why all the response curves look alike for the most part, because the acoustic patterns of the room are going to dominate the measurement. So don't look at the measurements themselves, look for deviations from the overall pattern to identify issues, like the dip in the response of the sp2500 between 2k-5k.

    I've done a LOT of room measurements and can say the author did a decent job here. If he had no other audio experience before diving into this project, it shows he really did his research...or got really lucky. lol The people with the nasty/mocking/snob comments should actually take the time to do some in-room measurements, they would be suprised.

    3) Don't let anyone tell you a PC speaker sucks because it is a PC speaker. I've built dozens of DIY speakers, and I bought a logitech Z-5500 for my bedroom. Why, cause I couldn't build them for the price I paid ($160 AR @ buy.com). I could have built something very similar if I wanted, as the Tang Band driver logitech used in the z-5500 was well known to the DIY community, but it wouldn't have been a nice without a lot of effort & extra money.

    4) Plastic enclosures aren't bad. The enclosure material doesn't matter as long as it blocks the rear wave of the cone output and doesn't resonate. Plastic actually has a huge benefit in small speakers like this, as a simple curve or some added thickness can add a lot to strength...something cheap and easy to do in a plastic mold.

    5) Don't be afraid to use the EQ built into many sound drivers.
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    hmp_goose , January 6, 2011 4:14 AM
    It's you: Where the hell are my 5.1 sets?
  • 4 Hide
    Mark Heath , January 6, 2011 4:20 AM
    Interesting.. thanks for the article. :) 
  • 1 Hide
    jazn1337 , January 6, 2011 4:40 AM
    Dang, I was hoping you guys would look at the Swan M10s.
  • 7 Hide
    clownbaby , January 6, 2011 4:50 AM
    Wow, those freq response graphs are pretty telling that computer speakers are basically all trash. The bass peaks and generally crappiness in the mid range seem to be a common theme. Almost no consideration seems to be given to music listening.

    2.1 is the ideal setup for a computer imo. 4.1 at most. A center channel just isn't needed for monitor sized screens.

    You can buy a cheap onkyo receiver, some low end bookshelf speakers and a small sub for a few hundred bucks and have sound that will destroy the best pc speakers.

    The fact is, pc speakers are toys. There is no high end option. What they market as high end would be laughed out the door by the regular audio comminuty.

    p.s. Plastic is not an acceptable cabinet material
  • 0 Hide
    clownbaby , January 6, 2011 4:52 AM
    this is what frequency response graphs of decent speakers should look like.

    http://www.speakerdesignworks.com/StatementCenterChannelResponsePlots.JPG
  • 3 Hide
    tigerwraith , January 6, 2011 4:53 AM
    My Logitech G51 speakers have a Headphone and mic passthrough on the remote.
  • -2 Hide
    clownbaby , January 6, 2011 4:54 AM
    this is a frequency response graph of the first diy speaker I built from a popular design. This is a super budget MTM speaker.

    http://www.speakerdesignworks.com/TritrixMTMfr.gif
  • -1 Hide
    d0gr0ck , January 6, 2011 5:03 AM
    clownbabyWow, those freq response graphs are pretty telling that computer speakers are basically all trash. The bass peaks and generally crappiness in the mid range seem to be a common theme. Almost no consideration seems to be given to music listening.2.1 is the ideal setup for a computer imo. 4.1 at most. A center channel just isn't needed for monitor sized screens.You can buy a cheap onkyo receiver, some low end bookshelf speakers and a small sub for a few hundred bucks and have sound that will destroy the best pc speakers. The fact is, pc speakers are toys. There is no high end option. What they market as high end would be laughed out the door by the regular audio comminuty.p.s. Plastic is not an acceptable cabinet material


    Pretty much this. I've been telling people for ages that their super-duper PC speakers aren't. Any brand that quotes max power over RMS values raises an instant red flag for me. Even 20yr old Radioshack shelf speakers can run circles on most modern PC speakers.

    I die a little bit every time I hear someone with a premium add-in sound card is running generic PC speakers.
  • 0 Hide
    tigsounds , January 6, 2011 5:25 AM
    This is all Go out and buy it junk. Build your own and end up with something that rattles the neighbors nerves if done right.
  • 3 Hide
    Mark Heath , January 6, 2011 5:46 AM
    For all those who trash all PC speakers, they're usually the best option on the lower end of the scale. There are people out there who have compared entry level (sub 400) active speakers to the Klipsch Promedia set (best active speakers ~150 for sound quality imo) and they say that they're not that different. If you do it right, then it's not as bad as you might think.
  • 11 Hide
    cleeve , January 6, 2011 6:03 AM
    clownbabyWow, those freq response graphs are pretty telling that computer speakers are basically all trash.


    If you know audio, you know that the environment has a *MASSIVE* effect on response recording. Even moving the mic a few inches in the same environment can change the result by a large amount.

    As we've stressed in the article, we don't have the luxury of a professional-grade anechoic chamber for testing. Our results are likely heavily degraded by comb filtering and phase cancellation, but they can be used to compare speaker output to each other because they were all tested in the same conditions.

    The bottom line is, don't write these products off based on a response taken in less than ideal conditions.

    Use these response graphs for what they are good for--not absolute, but relative measurements.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2011 6:05 AM
    I would be interested to compare these with the Harman Kardon 2.1 soundsticks III, which i own and i am very happy with, even though they are (only) rated @ 20W RMS (Sub) + 2 x 10W RMS (satellites).
  • 5 Hide
    pandemonium_ctp , January 6, 2011 6:29 AM
    Quote:
    Is it just us, or are 5.1- and 7.1-channel speaker systems impractical for PCs?


    It's just you (guys). Gamer immersion? IMHO more channels is more important for gaming than for watching movies (which I also do with my 7.1 setup; TV speakers = 2 additional).

    Simple rules for buying good speakers (and anything peripheral):
    -Stay away from wireless
    -You can't really go wrong with Logitech, Bose or Altec Lansing (though not as good as they used to be)
    -High RMS/Watt output means next to nothing (unless you're deaf and need speakers at high volume all the time and don't care about quality of tone)

    TigsoundsThis is all Go out and buy it junk. Build your own and end up with something that rattles the neighbors nerves if done right.


    I'm all for building your own, except most people won't know the properties that are important for stereo systems and will wind up with sub-par performance compared to cheap store-bought crap. If you're just after rattling your neighbors nerves then you're just a douche. :/ 
  • 12 Hide
    damasvara , January 6, 2011 6:34 AM
    Audiophiles dissing common audio listeners = Hardcore PC gamers dissing console gamers

    Typical... :pfff: 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2011 6:52 AM
    I upgraded my computer speakers this holiday season and let me just say they are AMAZING now. I can't believe how much better real speakers are than PC speakers. I also tossed in a high end sound card and my music experience is surreal.

    If anyone is curious, google for "WAF-1 Rosewood Pair" the price they are selling for right now is a STEAL right now. Unfortunately they ran out of the matching 2-channel amp, so you need to find an amp elsewhere. I also picked up a BIC V1020 subwoofer because I like dance music. I'll never go back to normal PC speakers again.

    Price wise, it's the equivalent of getting a top-tier video card, but for your sound system.
  • 2 Hide
    specter_jester , January 6, 2011 7:02 AM
    I've no regret till now of my 1.5 years old Logitech Z2300 ;-)
  • 1 Hide
    reasonablevoice , January 6, 2011 7:37 AM
    clownbabyWow, those freq response graphs are pretty telling that computer speakers are basically all trash. The bass peaks and generally crappiness in the mid range seem to be a common theme. Almost no consideration seems to be given to music listening.2.1 is the ideal setup for a computer imo. 4.1 at most. A center channel just isn't needed for monitor sized screens.You can buy a cheap onkyo receiver, some low end bookshelf speakers and a small sub for a few hundred bucks and have sound that will destroy the best pc speakers. The fact is, pc speakers are toys. There is no high end option. What they market as high end would be laughed out the door by the regular audio comminuty.p.s. Plastic is not an acceptable cabinet material

    I've been saying this for years. It is 100% true.
    As per damasvara's comment about audiophiles dissing casual listeners, nothing could be further form the truth. We are not criticizing you, we are criticizing these low end speakers! We are trying to tell you that there are much better products out there for the money. Come, join us, you'll never look back.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2011 8:23 AM
    Much more expensive but please vbuild and review a system like this:

    B&W CM5 + Rotel RC-1550 + Rotel RB-1552 + Optical Out Sound Card
  • 1 Hide
    ZakTheEvil , January 6, 2011 10:01 AM
    I'll never fall for another overpriced computer-specific speaker system. SPDIF connected to Home Theater receiver and a set of decent 5.1 HT speakers works for me well and adds the flexibility of multiple inputs and a fully featured remote, also has EQ, compression for night time listening, etc. Movie surround modes work great for games too.
  • -1 Hide
    Hupiscratch , January 6, 2011 10:21 AM
    My Bose Companion 3 is doing great, and have the auxiliary jacks you´re asking. It should be on a next test.
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